Learner-Centered Outcomes-Based Instruction
1. Clear Objectives
should be described and clarified in the:
- The student should be informed in detail
about what is involved in the course
- You need to decide, on personal philosophy,
the pace of the course and if students are to move as a
cohort group or individually.
- Grading Rubrics
- Ideally a rubric explains assessment
of assignments and the basis for the overall course grade.
- Models of quality work
- Explanations of the relevance of
course materials to past and future learning.
does a clear and thorough syllabus look like to the student?
A clear and thorough syllabus should contain
an effective orientation to the course and to the course tools.
CVC2 provides resources to help faculty with these explanations.
Many colleges also provide orientation materials to their students.
Be sure to take advantage of offered resources and add to them
descriptions of materials unique to your class.
For advice on syllabus design and a sample
syllabus see the materials available in Building
Your First Syllabus.
are Grading Rubrics?
4faculty also provides advice on grading rubrics,
in both the Syllabus Description and in
Grades and Testing.
key to learner-centered outcomes based instruction is the use of
tools. Ideally, assessment
tools should be used:
- At the opening of the course to
gain a sense of what students already know and how you may be
able to facilitate their learning:
- Assessment of learning style
or similar tool
- Assessment of skill/knowledge level
- A brief, ungraded, current knowledge
quiz related to the subject provides an opportunity
to identify and help at risk students.
- Syllabus test:
- Consider offering students
the option of taking the syllabus test more than
once to relieve stress and help ensure learning.
- You may wish to password protect
the first quiz with a password that you include
in the syllabus or read me first section.
- Writing skills assessment:
- If students are asked to write
a few lines (possibly about themselves and what
they hope to learn) their writing skills will become
- Be careful to ensure that all the
early assessments are brief, fun and non-threatening.
Do not include them in the final grade.
- Build-in frequent self assessment
- Be sure to design questions to
reward what is understood and offer opportunities to
correct errors by explaining answers (keep facts, context
and process in mind)
- Remind students to build upon learning
from prior modules.
- Challenge Preconceptions
- Clarify Current Learning
- Demonstrate relationships
- Be sure to include multiple options
for performance of skills, knowledge and understanding.
What do assessment
tools look like to the student?
You observed several assessment tools in this
course. You can learn more in Lesson 8 of 4faculty.org.
Be sure to check for publisher resources when you choose your
textbook. Many publishers have test banks designed for online
for Students to Construct and Experience Their Own Knowledge
lesson we have learned is that we all learn differently.
It is very important to be clear about this. The process
by which we learn something and the outcome of that learning
are not the same. For example, some students
need to "read the manual" and reflect upon their reading
before they can think about assembling a computer. Other students
only need to watch you (or a video) once, and they can replicate
assembly. The different approaches to learning do not necessarily
symbolize different abilities to complete tasks once learned.
Many fields require that students be able
to perform their tasks utilizing the specific processes.
Common task performance does not necessarily necessitate common
pathways to learning. Students will learn more quickly
and more easily if we provide opportunities for students to construct
and experience their own knowledge acquisition process.
How can you do this without exhausting yourself
in the course development process? You might give students problem
solving opportunities. Think about this in practice.
Let's imagine that you teach math. You show your students
a problem and ask them to solve it. You provide clues as
to how to solve the problem. If your problem is both familiar
and challenging (it looks familiar, but asks students to use processes
they have not applied in the past), your students can begin to
solve the problem and will try various approaches. Perhaps
several will answer the question correctly. The key here
is that each student will explore the question differently.
Exercises offering students opportunities
to construct and experience their own knowledge include:
Another approach to providing an opportunity
for individual expressions of learning is to encourage analysis.
You can encourage analysis of readings, of student discussions,
or of a real time “chat” experience.
modules designed to appeal to differing learning styles,
and those which require students to explore modules that stretch
beyond their preferred learning style, encourage students to grow
and gain confidence. Applicability of this principle may
vary depending upon subject area.
Courses addressing the introductory needs
of students should address multiple styles and offer the most
options. Advanced and specialized courses may focus on approaches
and skills relevant to a narrower skill set. Faculty should
carefully assess the skills necessary in practical applications
of their disciplines. For example, a law class may justifiably
focus on reading skills, as reading comprehension and analysis
are key skills in the legal profession. A public administration
course, while specialized, relates to a field in which those with
differing learning preferences can succeed. In short, most
courses should address the needs of multiple learning preferences
and offer multiple options for processing new learning.
in the name of offering students options, faculty “document
dump.” That is, they offer a massive number of pages
and links. This can be disastrous early in an introductory
course. Students usually don't have the skills and knowledge
base to sort through the information and focus on key content.
Frustrated, students will drop the course assuming that it is
just too hard.
It is usually best to offer resources slowly
and over time. Students will probably appreciate a comprehensive
list of web links, but wait to offer this until at least the middle
of the course.
Opportunities for Students to Become Increasingly Responsible
for Their Own Learning
students to become increasingly responsible for their own learning.
How can you achieve this goal?
- Provide early and extensive input on the
discussion board to model effective discussion, analysis and
other communication skills
- Include examples of good posts from past
- Encourage student analysis of discussions
and reward students for becoming more skilled over time.
How? Peer pressure works wonders online. Students
know they have a real audience. If you or other students
ask questions about posts with unclear sections, students will
quickly learn that poor writing undermines clarity and their
ability to influence others. Ask increasingly challenging questions
about students' posts. If intrinsic motivation is insufficient,
you can inform students that you will raise your grading standards
Open Entry/Open Exit courses can be
designed to give students responsibility for their own learning,
but assessment usually requires objectively demonstrable skill
based learning. Class discussion on the discussion board
is usually not effective if students do not form a cohort and
interact. If they enter and leave a class at their convenience,
the reality that they are in different places in the material
during different weeks substantially undermines the opportunities
for interaction. Please do not interpret this as a negative
view of open entry/open exit courses. Some skill acquisition
is often best achieved without regard to cohort, timeframe or
Include meaningful assignments and, when possible,
allow students to develop their own pathways to learning.
Divide content into small modules so that students may move quickly
thorough skill portions and explore new learning and analysis
portions in more depth.
does the provision of choice and responsibility look like to the
and should be obvious to students. It might appear as options
for assignments, group projects, or service learning experiences.
It may be as simple as provision of a text document, PowerPoint
with voice over, or an audio track reviewing the
same materials. Students can chose to gravitate to the format
most suitable to their preferred learning style. If they feel
they haven't grasped the material by reading, for example, they
can turn to the PowerPoint option.
Students may not recognize that they are taking
responsibility for their own learning. Increasingly challenging
webquests that require students to find their own resources
may encourage more self direction. As students take more
responsibility for the class and for their own learning, they
often play a stronger role in the discussion board.
If you offer frequent posting requirements, students will become
comfortable with interaction. You can participate in the
conversation frequently at first and slowly pull out over time.
You might even consider using a "fake" online student.
This can allow you to make observations or ask questions without
the god like role of instructor. Increased student interaction
will allow you to pull out of the conversation. You may
find by the end of the course you need only say, "Great work
Options for Demonstrating Learning Outcomes (if appropriate)
learn most easily when presented with materials appealing to their
learning preferences. Performance options often inspire
students. During the learning process, encourage higher
order learning rather than memorization by questioning preconceptions
and asking them to evaluate their new learning. Ultimately,
however, you must consider the real world needs of your students.
Introductory courses often lend themselves to the creation of
multiple options. Advanced courses for students seeking
work in a particular profession may require consistent outcomes.
If your students will need to rebuild an engine, analyze a blood
sample, or give shots, assignments that encourage differing outcomes
may be unwise.
What does the opportunity
to provide differing evidence of outcomes look like to the student?
It is probably obvious that differing evidence
of outcomes implies the offering of different types of assignments.
How you do this may vary dramatically from discipline to discipline,
but it generally appears to the students as one assignment with
options for completion and achievement. For example you
could offer students the opportunity to do a research project,
engage in service learning and write about the experience, make
observations and then draw a cartoon or collage illustrating their
view, and so forth. Charts, drawings and other illustrations
can be scanned and submitted online as an attachment or as a link
to a website the student has created.
Opportunities for Reflection
order learning requires reflection. Students need time to
digest each piece of new learning. You will do them a good
service if you explain the value of
reflection and remind them to pause at regular intervals.
You can also "encourage" reflection by limiting forward
movement for a set period of time if the course management system
in use allows you to set up time sensitive files.
What do opportunities for
reflection look like to the student?
for reflection can appear in many forms:
- Build in journaling options that
are not graded by the instructor but require sharing on the
discussion board or require students to keep a journal that
is sent to the instructor. You might require input before
the student can move forward, particularly in courses that are
open entry/open exit.
- Ask how this lesson or module
relates to prior learning.
- Encourage sharing of reflections on what
was learned through analysis of materials on the discussion
- Remind students to evaluate both content
and process. They may understand facts or terminology,
but have difficultly with context or processing relationships.
If students are required to respond to one or two of the other
students' posts and to make those comments serious and thoughtful,
students will reflect on the materials and also reflect on the
You may wish to set up your Discussion Board
with topics for each lesson and threads for each topic.
Effective student support services
colleges offer online students a host of support services.
Be sure you know what is available and how students can access
those services. If your college does not use a home page
template which includes these services, be sure to set them up
as links from your homepage or syllabus.
Online tutoring and online counseling are
increasingly considered a normal institutional responsibility.
In addition to services provided by your college,
it is important to think about an orientation to your course and
the online tools you plan to employ. While it may be difficult
to design a frequently asked questions (FAQs) page for your first
course, you will quickly find that developing a FAQs for tools
and procedures and another for course content can save you from
answering the same question numerous times.
Another aspect of student support services
is the inclusion of an established regular response time for questions.
Students will appreciate knowing when they can anticipate hearing
from you. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, you
will model good time management.
BACK TO TOP
2: Clear and Captivating Instructional Design
Clear and Captivating Instructional Design
and captivating instructional design is difficult to describe,
but we know immediately when we see it. That is because
there is no one right formula for clear and captivating
design. Key considerations usually include a sense that
the course is tailored to its audience. In other words,
the writing style, the images and plug-ins
selected, and the layout are appropriate to the intellectual
sophistication, technical savy and needs of
the audience. For example, take a look at the CNN homepage
Lets imagine that this is the homepage for a course. Overwhelmed?
Probably, unless you view the CNN homepage regularly and know
just where to look for information of interest to you. Because
the CNN homepage attracts regular users, the content filled page
serves them well and saves viewers from having to click through
multiple pages to find the headlines of interest to them.
The same is true for your course. Future lawyers may find
reading page after page of illustration free text clear and captivating,
but most introductory environmental science students would likely
drop the course at the end of the first lesson - they demand images.
Think deeply about your students and what they are attracted to
and need. Look at other courses, Merlot,
and publisher prepared materials in your discipline for ideas.
What might clear and captivating
instructional design look like to the student?
Please send recommendations for additions
to this list to Kristina Kauffman: email@example.com,
using the subject line: examples of excellent online
A Pathway to Guide Student Learning
will recall that in Module 109: How People Learn,
we discussed the importance of pathways to learning.
Provision of a pathway to guide student learning has eased many
students through their first online course and provided them with
the confidence to pursue other courses. Just what is a pathway?
You are already familiar with the DREAM pathway through 4faculty.
Many other options are working effectively across the nation.
Systematic pedagogical pathways
currently in use include:
- Riverside Community College's
ICARE (Introduction, Connect, Apply, Reflect Evaluate)
- The FAST Online Academy
which won the California Community College Chancellor's Office
Focus Award in 2001. It has been used in the Contra Costa
System to quickly orient faculty to online teaching. That pathway
includes Foundation, Application, Sharing, Test
Community College's DAPIR MAN Modular Structure used in
the Radiology training program employs a far more sophisticated
structure than the others:
- Descriptive Layer:
Overall Description of the Material
- Assessment Layer: Packet
Layer with primary contents
- Integration Layer:
How the material integrates with other modules
- Reference Layer: Vocabulary
and sources for the material in the module
- Media Layer: Contains
all the media for the module
- Articulation Layer:
Contains all the rules of articulation and matriculation
- Necessities Layer:
Contains all of the internal management of material information
(such as URL’s and update routine, information search and
does a pathway to guide student learning look like to the student?
The pathway should include:
- A clear orientation to
course materials and online tools (FAQs)
- Time management recommendations
- A syllabus or calendar
that is reinforced in each module or lesson
- Clearly established objectives
which visually stand out
- Navigation tools that guide
you through the lesson and from lesson to lesson
- Integrated discussions
- Assessment tools.
Be sure to "chunk"
materials into digestible bites. Small increments alleviate
stress and apprehension and help students learn to break down
learning into manageable increments.
It is wise to give more time
for the first lesson. Students need time to get comfortable
with the course tools before they can focus on the content.
insure an appealing presentation, think carefully about the selection
of color and layout design. Use effective imagery to enhance
your presentation. While you may occasionally wish to select
an image style different from the rest of your course, use differences
for emphasis, not as a regular choice.
If you don't have a good eye
for design, consult your colleagues in the graphics or art departments,
your campus webmaster, or online course support staff. Keep
in mind that not everyone likes the same colors or layouts.
While you want to let your personality and discipline's image
shine through, you don't want to chose a style that is distracting
to your learners.
Keep in mind that consistency
of presentation will have a calming effect on your learners, giving
them the opportunity to focus without distraction on course content
does an appealing presentation look like to the student?
In addition to the color and
layout considerations mentioned above, think about:
- Using multi-media accessible
to both those with 28K modems and the visually impaired
- The importance of addressing
multiple learning preferences, particularly in introductory
- Opportunities for interaction
with the content, exploring various scenarios and making choices.
Does this seem repetitive?
If it does, this means that you have mastered the material and
integrated it into your understanding of a good online course.
It is not rocket science. If you have been teaching for
a long time, you probably knew most of this on an intuitive level.
3: Varied Forms of Interactivity with Material, Other Students
and the Instructor
Regular Communication with peers and instructor
It is important to design a
communication process that supports learning, not only in terms
of content and analysis, but also in human terms. Seed discussion,
encourage and reward students for “teaching” each other, and plan
for regular and predictable response times. Communicate
concern for students' learning and their development of self-motivated
What is regular communication?
This will vary depending upon the discipline and the length of
the course. For a standard three unit course offered in
a regular semester format, questions should be answered at least
twice per week. Three times per week is the best approach.
Comments on work submitted for a grade should be made within a
week. At least one peer to peer communication per week should
be encouraged or required. An informal study done at Riverside
Community College early in the development of their online courses
revealed that courses with the largest and fewest posts to the
discussion board also had the highest drop rates. It is
possible to overdo interaction. Typically, successful online
faculty interact extensively early in the session and withdraw
to just a few posts per week (or lesson) at the end of the course.
What does communication
with peers and the instructor look like to the student?
Students will appreciate these
- A personalized introduction
to the instructor offering a sense of the instructor's expertise,
interests and world view as they relate to the course.
A video introduction is an excellent enhancement.
- Early, extensive instructor
input on discussion board modeling discussion, analysis and
other communication skills
- A process of turning analysis
of student discussion to the class over time
- Structures that encourage
peer support (i.e., an early requirement to ask questions and
offer recommendations for improvement to one or two other student's
posts on each lesson)
- The construction of learning
communities or cohorts
- Rapid responses to personal
- Guidelines on ethics, clarity,
grammar, netiquette, conversational style
- A unrecorded discussion
room, just for students, allowing the building of relationships
in the "hallway" of the online course.
If the first discussion
item is a self-introduction, you can ease students into the
online writing process. Think of this as an ice breaker.
You might wish to pose a question or two that is easy for everyone
to answer. You can use their self introduction as an assessment
tool to identify writing difficulties.
Varied Interaction with Content
opportunities to interact with content can be a challenge.
Often, real interaction with content will not be a feature of
your first online course. In the past, few plug-in options
existed and publishers rarely had information worth adding to
a course. Today that is not the case. You can offer
opportunities for interaction with the content without designing
them yourself. Use materials from Merlot or publishers.
If you are quite sophisticated, you can also design your own.
does interaction with content look like to the student?
Opportunities to interact
with content can include exploration of the consequences of various
scenarios and choices. You can design these using web links
or more sophisticated authoring tools. If you did not view
them earlier in this lesson, the two examples below offer interaction
with the content:
Another opportunity to interact can come in
the form of a WebQuest
(be sure to check the link for ideas). A webquest might
ask a student to go on a sort of cyber scavenger hunt to find
data or expand their understanding of an issue. A basic
webquest might look like the one below:
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Copyright: Riverside Community College
Copyright: Suzanne Miller, Kristina Kauffman
Sinclair Community College
These recommendations are the result of:
- A series of
California Virtual College Region 2 sponsored workshops
work for 4faculty.org
about good online pedagogy held by the author at several
proposes a set of guidelines for Community College faculty
preparing online courses. Your comments are welcomed.
Please forward recommendations to Kristina Kauffman via
Copyright to this section is held by Kristina Kauffman.